Whether a country ranks high or low for internet freedom, nationwide surveillance is carried out by virtually every government. This is often done to prevent terrorism, fight crime, and protect residents – but history has shown that individuals and organizations abuse their powers and misuse our personal data. This begs an obvious question: what does my government know about me, and how does it use this information?
In the UK, the government enforces one of the most thorough and ubiquitous data surveillance policies in the world. Data collection covers everything from one’s criminal records to DNA and travel history. In order to protect yourself from being tracked, you need a top quality VPN service that encrypts your data and gives you a non-UK IP. This will protect you while helping you bypass regional restrictions, bypass censorship blocks, and access the best online deals available online. In this article, we’ll discuss how to choose the best VPN for ultimate security, give you our provider recommendations, and explain what the UK government does and doesn’t know about you.
- 1 Choosing the best VPN for your data protection
- 2 Our VPN recommendations for the UK
- 3 Is it legal for the government to track my information?
- 4 Who else can access my personal information?
- 5 Conclusion
Choosing the best VPN for your data protection
When it comes to data protection in the UK, a simple free VPN won’t cut it. You need the features below if you want a chance against the UK government’s tight security features.
- Strong encryption – look for military-grade encryption such as the 256-bit AES technology. This will ensure that no one, from the government to your ISP, can gain access to your data.
- Zero-logging – a zero-logging policy will protect you from being tracked online, either by the government or your ISP. Make sure to choose a VPN provider whose no-logging policy covers everything from traffic to IP addresses to your browsing history.
- In-built security features – there are some security features that will allow you to stay safe online. For example, DNS leak protection makes sure that none of your data requests go through your ISP. Extras like this are a useful tool in data protection.
- Speed – a VPN tends to slow down your internet connection. However, a good provider will make this difference unnoticeable. Opt for a provider with high connection speeds, no limitations on bandwidth, and no speed caps or throttling.
- Server network – in a nutshell, the larger the server network, the more options you have in terms of both speed and location. This feature will also let you bypass regional restrictions and beat harsh censorship blocks.
Our VPN recommendations for the UK
Now that you’re familiar with the most important security features in a VPN, check out our top provider recommendations for protecting your data from the government in the UK.
ExpressVPN is our number one choice for protecting your data in the UK. Firstly, the provider is based in the British Virgin Islands – a location that is outside of the UK jurisdiction and exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements. This means that none of the governments in the alliance can track your data or keep logs of it for extended periods of time. Furthermore, the service uses 256-bit AES encryption that is considered unbreakable. It would take the world’s strongest supercomputer millions of years to even attempt to crack it. Encryption protocols include OpenVPN’s UDP and TCP, as well as more security-oriented ones like SSTP. ExpressVPN’s no-logging policy is one of the best in the industry, covering your traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, and browsing history. This means that the UK’s police, ISPs, and government officials won’t be able to see any of your online activity or trace it back to your identity.
Along with its major focus on privacy, ExpressVPN is, as indicated by the name, lightning-fast. With a server network of 2,000+ servers in 94 countries, you can get an IP address from almost any location in the world, and the connection will always be one of the fastest. Furthermore, ExpressVPN has no limitations on bandwidth and doesn’t use speed caps or throttle your connection. There are dedicated apps for all major systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, Chrome, Safari, and even game consoles and smart TVs. You have the option to connect up to three devices simultaneously, so your data will be protected no matter where you browse from.
Read more about the provider’s military-grade security in our full ExpressVPN review.
NordVPN is a security-first provider that’s one of the best for the UK. Its massive network of 5,200+ servers in 62 countries includes a variety of specialty servers that are designed for privacy. Obfuscated servers, for example, hide the fact that you are using a VPN and help you remain off the radar. Double VPN takes your data through two proxy servers and adds an extra layer of encryption to all your traffic. Throw in a zero-logging policy that’s one of the best in VPN history and you get a very high level of protection from the UK government. Additionally, NordVPN is based in Panama, which is a neutral government exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major governments. This makes NordVPN immune to any takedown requests that may come its way.
NordVPN is also easy and intuitive to use. The app has a straightforward, stylish user interface, which is impressive considering how rich the service is in features. The mobile software is practically as advanced as the desktop version, which is usually not the case with VPN providers. NordVPN is available on Mac OS, Windows, Android, iOS, and even RaspberryPi. It also allows you to connect a whopping 6 devices at once, and places no limitations on bandwidth or server switching, making it an ideal service for everyday use.
Read our full review of NordVPN for more details.
CyberGhost is one of the most reliable VPN services – and it’s incredibly user friendly to boot. Upon launch, you can choose from 6 different pre-configured profiles, each tailored to different use-cases. For example, you can choose to “protect your Wi-Fi connection” or “surf anonymously” in order to ensure that your data is safe from the UK government as well as your ISP. Furthermore, these profiles are customizable with toggles that can protect your privacy even further, like “block online tracking” or “block malicious websites”.
While CyberGhost appeals to newbies due to its simple interface, it’s just as rich in core features as other industry leaders. The provider uses military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, which makes your data inaccessible to anyone unless you voluntarily hand it over. Furthermore, CyberGhost’s no-logging policy covers almost everything, from timestamps to even your email address. The massive server network of 3,100+ nodes in 59 countries gives you a wide range of IP addresses to choose from, meaning you never need to reveal your real one. Other security features include a connection guard, a kill switch, and an online tracking blocker, all of which will keep your information protected the entire time you are using the VPN service.
Take a look at our full review of CyberGhost to learn more about its privacy features.
PrivateVPN provides its users with the perfect balance of security and speed, no matter whether you are located in the UK or another Commonwealth nation. The service uses 2048-bit encryption with AES-256, keeping your data protected at all times behind a veil of cryptography with more key combinations than atoms in the known universe. VPN protocols include Open VPN’s UDP and TCP, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec, which is fast and helps beat censorship blocks. Furthermore, PrivateVPN’s zero-logging policy ensures that the government or your ISP won’t be able to come across any logs of your traffic since almost none will be stored on the servers’ database. Extra security features include an automatic kill switch and built-in DNS leak protection.
PrivateVPN has a slightly more modest server network totalling 100+ servers in 59+ countries, but said servers deliver all the speed and power you might need. Furthermore, you will be able to stay safe and anonymous online with this variety of locations. PrivateVPN places no limitations on bandwidth, speed, or even server switching, so the inevitable slowdown of a VPN service will be hardly noticeable. The provider has dedicated apps for all major operating systems and devices, and if you want to avoid all hassle, you can choose to the free remote setup done for you.
Check out our full PrivateVPN review.
PureVPN’s service offers some of the best privacy features on the market. The provider uses top-of-the-line 256-bit AES encryption so no government lurkers or ISPs can access your data at any point. The no logging policy is thorough and ensures that no one can trace what you were doing online. Together, the encryption and zero-logging mean that your data is extremely difficult for third parties to access. Extra features include an automatic kill switch will automatically shut down your internet should you get disconnected, so at no point do you risk being tracked without realizing it.
Along with its impressive range of security features is PureVPN’s impressive self-owned network of 2,000+ servers in 140 countries. The network covers virtually every location in the world, so you get a massive range of IP addresses including ones from pro-data security countries like Sweden. PureVPN is available on desktop and mobile applications, as well as browser extensions. Additionally, the provider’s 24-hour live chat support will help you solve any connection issues as they come up, so you won’t need to browse without a VPN ever again.
Is it legal for the government to track my information?
The short answer is “yes”. In 2016, the Investigatory Powers Act was introduced in order to limit how much surveillance power intelligence agencies have. However, what this act really did is force phone companies and ISPs to start keeping records of websites for at least 12 months. This effectively means the UK government now has records of every website every person has visited in that time frame, including metadata covering phone calls. So let’s say you visited a website. The government will have access to the time you visited the page, how long you were browsing for, your IP address, and other details about your device and its connection. While this record doesn’t include the actual URL, the base domain will appear in their database.
A VPN with strong security features is one of the only tools that can help you prevent this sort of invasion of privacy. It will keep your data protected with strong encryption, and ensure that no logs on your data are stored at any point for the government, your ISP, or cybercriminals to find. With the amount of important information we place online, including our credit card details, this sort of privacy measure seems more mandatory than recommended.
Who else can access my personal information?
While the UK government has its own ways to gather information on its citizens, gathering information can be much simpler than it seems. Several third parties can give government officials more than enough information, including Google, CCTV, and some national databases.
As you probably know by now, Google knows everything about you. With the wide range of apps, products, and services offered by Google, they have access to some of your most private information at all times. For example, if you use Gmail as your e-mail service, it has access to everything from your appointments, contacts, and even conversations with other users. In short, Google can easily build a profile around all your online information. Below is a list of things that the UK government can find out about you if they get access to Google records.
- Search history
- Browsing history
- Contacts, emails (all), and other conversations
- Locations visited (via Google maps)
- How you look and your voice
- Videos streamed and news stories read
The UK government has a wide range of national databases, all of which are controlled under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. These databases gather different information on citizens, but it only goes to show that none of your personal data is protected. Some of the information held by these databases includes:
- Employment, immigration status, and workplace disputes
- Income, personal financial records, and credit records
- Passport information, trips abroad, and where you live
- Criminal records and details of arrest
- All medical records, including hospital visits and information on family members
- Vehicle tracking – a network that captures approximately 30 million records daily
CCTV cameras in the UK are used as a security measure in order to keep track of criminal activity. With anywhere between 4 and 6 million cameras all over the country, the UK has one of the biggest CCTV networks worldwide. However, surprisingly enough, most of these cameras are operated by companies and individuals. Anyone can get their hands on CCTV footage of themselves under the Data Protection Act for a small fee, and if your business is using these cameras, you must inform people that they may be recorded.
As it turns out, despite its democratic political stance, the UK knows more about its citizens than meets the eye. If you are currently residing in Britain, the government has a lot of information gathered on you, including your address and even online browsing history. Furthermore, the UK’s participation in the Five Eyes alliance even further reduces your level of privacy, since these governments have had cases of spying on each other’s citizens.
In order to ensure that your security is always intact and your information stays secure, you will need to encrypt your online data and make sure your ISP isn’t storing it online. For this, you will need a quality VPN. Any one of our recommended providers will not only give you back control over your own data, but gain you back your privacy.